Billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson says that he lost £500 million of his own money on his abandoned project to build a ‘groundbreaking’ electric car.
Dyson’s eponymous technology company established a Dyson Automotive division, with 500 staff and a commitment to invest £2.5 billion into technology including the electric car project.
Development had begun in 2014 but in October last year Dyson scrapped plans for the car, which had been due to launch in 2021, because he didn’t feel the project was commercially viable.
Dyson and his family topped this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated net worth of £16.2 billion, an increase of £3.6 billion from 2019. In an interview with the paper, Dyson revealed some new details about the EV project – which had progressed to the point that a working prototype was running at the time it was axed.
As well as confirming that he lost £500 million on the abandoned scheme, Dyson said that the seven-speed SUV, codenamed N526, had a 600-mile range, and could achieve 0-62mph in 4.8sec with a top speed of 125mph. The car produced around 536bhp and 479lb ft of torque from two electric motors.
Dyson told The Sunday Times that “there’s huge sadness and disappointment” about the project. He added: “Ours is a life of risk and of failure. We try things and fail. Life isn’t easy.”
Speaking about the economics of the project, Dyson said: “I don’t have a fleet. I’ve got to make a profit on each car or I’d jeopardise the whole company. In the end it was too risky.” He added that when “other companies started producing electric cars at a loss, it became too risky for us”.
Chemicals magnate Sir Jim Ratcliffe, whose new Ineos Automotive firm is currently developing the Grenadier 4x4 for a planned launch in 2021, is fifth on the Rich List with an estimated worth of £12.2 billion.
Former Formula 1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone is 56th, with an estimated worth of £2.5 billion. Former McLaren boss Ron Dennis is 300th, with an estimated worth of £445 million, while Mercedes-AMG F1 team boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie are 369th, with a worth of £355 million.
Reigning Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton is the highest-ranked sportsperson, with The Sunday Times claiming that his £224 million makes him the wealthiest sportsperson in the list’s 32-year history.